I’m not one to share my opinion, but since you asked…
- Pitt is exactly where I thought they would be at this point, which is to say two wins vs. inferior teams and two losses against BCS caliber schools. But as we know, it’s not how you play vs. your non-conference schedule. It’s all about winning the Big East & the BCS Bid that comes with it. This version of the ‘High Octane’ offense Panthers coach Todd Graham promised has not been Ferrari high-octane, but more like sputtering mid-grade 85 you get from a DeSoto. Many want to blame Tino Sunseri, the embattled senior QB. His numbers have been less than stellar, but in reality, the talent is just not there. Pitt does have some talent on that field, but improved play at the corners and some bigger, more physical receivers will help.
- When you look at the numbers, South Florida is impressive at 4-0, having won at Notre Dame to begin the year, followed by three wins at home in Tampa. QB B.J. Daniels is healthy and adds the run/pass skills that make him possibly the player of the year in the Big East. Can the Panthers D contain him long enough? Maybe that answer lies with the Pitt O scoring some points. If the game gets into a shoot-out, I like Pitt’s chances. The Panthers have won the past three games in the series.
- Ray Graham has been the best part of the season for Pitt. His play gives you some hope to this team finding it’s scoring punch. Get the ball into his hands somehow 30 times a game and your more than likely going to have more positive results than negative.
- Mike Shanahan needs to be more involved as well. He is tied for 2nd in receptions with 17, but has only one score, coming in the 1st game vs. Buffalo. He did haul in a season high six snares vs. the Irish, but only recorded two catches in the 2nd half. I know Devin Street & Graham need their share of plays to be involved in, but the senior needs to find a way to get open more for his QB.
- Graham needs at least three years on the job before I’d be worried about how to really gauge success or failure. He will get at least that long, possibly four before you could say he can’t do it.
- Max Gruder has been about the best player for the Panthers on D. Too bad Dan Mason won’t be joining him. It looks like the Panthers will try to get Mason a medical red shirt for this year. Let’s hope he can make a full recovery for 2012.
- For the Panthers to have ANY chance today vs. South Florida, they are going to need points. About 34 to 38 in order to win. The Bulls are fast on Defense and will provide fits to the offense. But much like last week, I think the Panthers will stay in the game from beginning to end and if I were a betting man, the field goal they are catching is enough to sway me & take Pitt & the points. I feel they can win tonight, but only if the offense can figure out how to move the ball downfield vs. a good defense. Crank up some Thursday night magic on ESPN, the Panthers start out Big East play with a shocking W tonight.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a secret member of the Galactic Empire. When he’s not chasing down Jedi across the Clemente Bridge, he can be found hosting the High School Football Show Saturday mornings starting at 7am. Follow JP on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@937Phillips